ANNAPOLIS — Sen. Cory McCray continues pushing legislation permitting Baltimore to require certain high-ranking police officers to live in the city, despite opposition from the department.
The legislation is needed, McCray said, because Baltimore benefits when law enforcement leaders are invested in the city’s future in a way that can only happen when those officers call the city home.
“When we have folks that know those neighborhoods a little better there’s a stronger fabric, a stronger connection,” McCray said on Wednesday during bill’s hearing with the Senate Judicial Proceeding’s Committee.
Last year McCray backed similar legislation, which passed the Senate and the House of Delegates. It stalled, however, when a conference committee was not convened to iron out the differences between those bills.
Despite facing opposition from the department, McCray guaranteed his bill will pass this year. His confidence was buoyed by unanimous backing from the city delegation and from key city elected officials, such as City Council President Brandon Scott, Councilman Bill Henry, and Councilwoman Shannon Sneed, who are all running for citywide office.
“This bill will pass,” McCray said with a smile in his office before the the hearing.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison testified against the bill. He said the residency requirement will encourage officers who want to advance their careers to move on to another municipal department.
“While this bill is well-intentioned it would have cataclysmic and catastrophic impact on the Baltimore Police Department,” Harrison told the committee.
The bill authorizes the mayor and City Council to compel members of command staff, with a rank of captain or higher, to live in Baltimore. If the bill is enacted by the city it would not apply to officers currently in those positions who live outside the city.
The Baltimore Police Department, according to the bill’s fiscal note, said the legislation would impact about 64 police officers, or about 3% of officers. That number may vary because of “organizational changes or vacancies within BPD.”
Some of Baltimore leaders have long wanted a policy that stipulates city officers reside in Baltimore. That’s based on a belief officers police areas differently when it’s their home as opposed to an area where they go to impose law and order.
Opponents of such policies have argued that requiring officers to live in the city makes it harder to recruit qualified candidates and harder to keep officers on the force.